Once upon a time, The Simpsons were the biggest thing to hit local TV. Everything they touched turned to gold. They came out with books, mugs, shirts, stuffed toys, a larger-than-life arcade game for six people, and wonder of wonders, an album.
Being the sucker for slick marketing and clean packaging that I was (and still am), I wasted no time in grabbing up this case study in spinoff sales. It featured a catchy carrier single, “Do the Bartman”. Of course, this was in 1991, and back then I was an impressionable young lad with absolutely no musical taste.
Since that was in the golden age of the cassette tape, you really had no choice but to listen to the whole tape. As lawyers say, back then there was no such animal as repeat. Halfway through the tape, I heard Lisa Simpson sing “God Bless The Child” and I got blown away, and it was the first of many times that a song did that to me.
As the old saying goes, you never forget your first time.
I first saw Judy on the first day of class.
It’s hard to miss Judy. You don’t miss someone with a face that looks like it came straight out of a magazine and hair that you swear you’ve seen in some long-forgotten shampoo commercial.
On the first day of the seminar I found her standing outside our classroom in her long, tall Manolo Blahniks, straight-line Mango pants, and a black top from the deepest recesses of Dolce and Gabbana. In her hand is a lit cigarette, and as she takes a long drag I begin to swear that she is the most effective cigarette commercial I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
Sometime later, I get a nudge in the ribs from my wife, who by now saw my jaw on the floor and brought it back to its proper place.
“Quit staring, it’s rude,” her words a bit more harsh than expected.
One year later, and Judy is sitting in a small alcove in my room that is otherwise used for study and the task of writing. Presently, she is in the company of classmates: yours truly, the missus, Jayme (her gimmick buddy this summer), and Manolo (class stud,now co-opted into becoming her driver, at least for the time being).
Earlier, there had been drinking and carousing by more than twenty of us classmates celebrating the end of what had been a grueling first year of classes. Now that only five remained, we gathered in a circle as if by instinct, and paid vigil to the sunrise.
So we talk. We talk about everything that almost always means nothing. Along the way, talk turned to heartache and loneliness, and Judy’s eyes lit up like anything.
“Can I just make kwento,” she cooes, not anymore bothering to hide her thick, convent-bred accent.
Once upon a time Judy had a boyfriend. His name was Punch, but to her friends, his name was Perfect. To them, Punch had everything going for him. He was, according to Judy, tall, beautiful, reserved, refined: the kind of boy who you could show to your parents and, once their backs are turned, give you passionate nookie in the most romantic of places.
“In all the time we were together, which was like, two years, all my parents ever thought we did was hold hands,” intimates Judy, with a small giggle. “Who just holds hands these days?”
To hear Judy tell it, their story was just like any other boy-next-door meets girl-next-door story. They met one day in that college along Katipunan, and they were a steaming for each other from day one. “I knew we were meant for each other from the moment we saw each other,” lamented Judy. Unfortunately for her, hers was one of those stories where how it all ends is a lot more interesting than how everything began.
“It’s my fault, really. I cheated on my man.”
Judy’s friends had been trying to get Judy to cheat on Punch for months. They taunted her mercilessly for days on end, on occasion dropping the names of the hottest male models in the country who had a thing for her. Unfortunately for the erstwhile happy couple, it did happen, and at a very bad time, too.
As Punch was Judy’s first boyfriend, they had come to a stage in their relationship where she had started to doubt whether Punch was really for her. Instead of putting him to the test, she put herself to the test and went on a single date with another guy. Although she claims nothing happened, the rumors and the allegations that followed were enough to put an end to all things Punch and Judy.
“What really hurts is that the people who pushed me into dating this other guy were the ones who told Punch about everything. They said they’d keep quiet, and then they stab me in the back like that.”
Finally, out of breath, and racked with tears, Judy, lust object for many men, and source of envy of many women, finally broke down.
It is morning before Judy regains her composure. Her china-doll face is close to its former elegance, but not quite, the late nights, alcohol, and cigarettes consumed since classes began having begun to take their toll.
Later, as the elevator doors close, my wife pokes me in the ribs for the first time since she picked my jaw off the floor nearly one year ago. “The guy she cheated with was this guy, you know,” says my wife while pointing to a bemuscled, barely clothed man staring back from the pages of a women’s magazine.
“She went out and cheated on her boyfriend with him?”
“Yeah. Small world they live in, actually.”
“If I were him, I wouldn’t feel jealous! That’s like you dating Santa Claus!”
“Honey, you never get jealous.”
Once again, my wife is right, and that’s the end of that. As I close the doors and prepare for bed, I say a small little prayer for Judy.
God bless the child that’s got her own.